Inbound Specialty Markets Yield Business for Tour Operators
Much of the recent attention on specialty markets championed by NTA tour operators has focused on faith-based tourism and the ever-growing China market. In both segments, the National Tour Association has spearheaded education and facilitated product development.
But another market that thrives, especially for tour operators hosting international groups, is agritourism. Tailor-made study tours appeal to a variety of agribusiness professionals, including farmers, researchers and agricultural students.
"The desire to explore new agricultural techniques and technologies has become very popular in recent years," says Cathy Greteman of Star Destinations in Carroll, Iowa. "What the travelers love most is meeting farmers who are producing the same products they produce halfway around the world. They want to see firsthand what science is in the making, what equipment will soon be available, and what the future of agriculture will look like."
Greteman said her company typically works with international tour operators who specialize in agricultural travel, and together, they make sure the visit accomplishes the group's mission.
Those missions can vary, according to Richard Maxcy of Agri Travel Services in Denver, Colo. "We've had wheat farmers from Australia looking at production facilities, a Pacific Rim group interested in forage-harvesting equipment, and beekeepers from the Netherlands," Maxcy said. "Groups come here because the western United States and Canada have such large operations, and they use the latest technology, equipment and management techniques."
As with any specialized market, agritourism travelers also spend time and money away from the targeted topic as they seek entertainment, dining and souvenirs.
"They want to feel the soil and photograph the plants and the landscape, but they also love our people, our cities and our shopping centers," Greteman said. "They leave knowing that, together with their brothers and sisters around the world, they are working toward the same end: feeding the world in the most efficient, productive manner."
In a recent survey, one quarter of NTA tour operators said they currently offer agritourism product. Operators said they anticipate significant increases in agritourism, along with culinary, faith-based and adventure tourism. At this year's Travel Exchange, NTA members delved further into other specialized markets and travel, including family, adventure and the U.S. Hispanic market. And in May, NTA inked a partnership agreement with the World Food Travel Association, enabling NTA members to package more food and drink tourism.
About NTA: Founded in 1951, NTA is the leading business-building association for travel professionals (from more than 40 countries) interested in the North American market-inbound, outbound and within the continent. Travel Exchange, an appointment and trade show held in conjunction with the United Motorcoach Association, takes place in Los Angeles, Feb. 16-20. For more information, visit NTAonline.com.